I’ll define the terms of this wild food project in a later blog. I’m too busy right now as I need to start thinking about dinner – what will it be, where will it be found, how long will it take to process the particular ingredients that may or may not be found? Is there a magical tree where I can harvest more time?
I woke on the first day of this month, the first day of my year-long endeavor feeling utterly famished at the daunting prospect of the year to come whilst gasping for a coffee – my main source of sustenance of late. My recent diet, for the past 6 month at least has, to put it bluntly, been utter crap. But love is an illness and I’ve suffered deeply. In short, my preparation for this challenge has been a disaster – at least emotionally and mentally. But I don’t really want to say too much about that.
No coffee but, fortunately, a good supply of that headache banishing miracle plant feverfew. Caffeine withdrawal headaches can be as bad as the acutest migraine for which feverfew is renowned as an effective herbal treatment. Still, no caffeine jolt to shock me awake…
…but then I began blending up some sweet chestnuts from my stores to make some chestnut porridge. Fortunately or unfortunately -I’m really not sure which, because the blender was standing in a puddle of water and the usual toxic mess that invariably accompanies my cooking, after shaking it a bit I screamed and dropped it. Why? Because I received a massive electric shock! Who needs coffee!!
This put me in a good mood, hence morning playtime with the porridge’s accompanying stewed cherry plums.
Actually, I discovered something very interesting about the pan scrapings that make up the eyes here. But that’s another story with some exciting culinary possibilities.
No coffee but shocked into life nonetheless my mind turned to thoughts of my favourite tea: lime blossom tea or, strictly speaking – for the pedantic, tisane. I have moved to Boughton in Kent for this project and have only been here a few months. You can imagine my delight then at discovering that lime trees line the playing field just a short walk from my front door.
I picked this for hours as the blossom season is short – usually only a week or two at the end of June and begining of July. Up north, of course, it will be later. Here’s the freshly gathered blossom lying on my table prior to drying. Spreading it out this way for allows the hundreds of tiny black beetles to fly off and congregate around the window to await release.
Then came something unexpected. Bees love to forage for lime blossom with its fragrant pollen as do I but the general buzz from the tree was that from large bumble bees. It became louder and disconcertingly louder but was not the bumble bees…….. A huge humming, buzzing, swarming amorphous cloud had descended upon the playing field. After about an hour the swarm headed, surprisingly, not for a lime tree but for a lone sycamore. There it settled into a heaving noisy mass of bees.
First he tries to bring the swam within reach by pulling down the branch. He attaches a rope to the branch to aid the process. But who will hold the other end?
It takes several hours for most of the bees to join their boxed brothers and sisters – the perfect opportunity to sit, chat and learn from the bee man himself. Then it’s time to spray the wings of the last few stragglers. That adversely effects their ability to fly so rather than buzz about they just give in and head for the box. Time to wrap things up….. literally!
Far too soon to see the next stage but I was curious as to how the honey is separated from the honeycomb. One whole side of the waxy structure is carefully cut away with a sharp knife to expose the honey in the honey cells. Then, the racks are placed one or several at a time in the manual spinning contraption shown below. The honey spins out and is left at the bottom of the bucket for collection. Fascinating.